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California's Most Beautiful College Campuses
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California's Most Beautiful College Campuses

From modern mountainous enclaves to exquisite oceanside establishments, you’ll find the prettiest college campuses in California.

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6 min read

April 12, 2021

Without a doubt, the Golden State is stunning—regardless if we’re talking about natural formations or exquisite architectural structures, California is for the win. Better yet, the state is also home to many of the most beautiful college campuses in the country. From modern mountainous enclaves to exquisite oceanside establishments, you’ll find the prettiest college campuses here. Who wouldn’t want to be surrounded by beauty while they study?

Going on your first California college tour? Looking for the most beautiful college towns to live in? Starting with the college campus itself is the way to go. If you’ve been wondering which college campuses are the prettiest, you’ve come to the right place.

Putting UC vs. CSU differences aside, here are beautiful college campuses in the Golden State.

campuses in Southern California

University of San Diego

The University of San Diego boasts beautiful 16th-century Spanish Renaissance architectural style, perched on 180 acres of lush grounds.

Location: 5998 Alcala Park, San Diego
Founded in: 1949.
Sitting high and mighty, the University of San Diego’s breathtaking Immaculata Church can be seen for miles. Your college experience is heightened at one of the most beautiful campuses. The beautiful Spanish Renaissance-style architecture overlooks Mission Bay and the San Diego skyline. Towering palm trees, gorgeous Spanish motifs, and sprawling green gardens make this campus an enchanting spot.

The campus complements the city’s impressive architecture, picturesque scenery, and ideal climate. It also doesn’t hurt that San Diego is one of the best college towns to live in.

Scripps College

Fruit trees and greenery adorn the charming campus of Scripps College.

Location: 1030 North Columbia Avenue, Claremont.
Founded in: 1926.
Did you sleep and wake up in an Italian postcard? The campus at Scripps College sure feels like it. While it’s smaller than most other institutions, the Scripps College campus is undoubtedly among the most beautiful. 

The renowned women’s college is surrounded by lush gardens and verdant trees. The greenery results in an intimate setting that allows for a relaxed college atmosphere. The abundance of fruit trees and gardens is complemented by Mediterranean-style architecture. All this and more makes Scripps one of the prettiest college campuses in the Golden State.

University of California, Los Angeles

UCLA offers one of the best locations and landscapes for a university campus in California.

Location: 405 Hilgard Avenue, Los Angeles.
Founded in: 1919.
With a stellar sports program, great academics, and an enviable location—UCLA is famous for a lot of things. Among its long list of impressive traits is having one of the most beautiful college campuses in the nation. The intricate buildings are set apart from many of the other colleges in the area. The Romanesque Revival architecture style stands out from every other structure in sight.

The landscape is equally amazing—sloped lawns in front of Royce Hall are one of the most impressive areas on campus. One-third of the campus is covered in greenery, with brick-lined walkways leading to courtyards and gardens. If the architecture and natural scenery haven’t impressed you yet, the 70 pieces of artwork at the Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden definitely will.

Pepperdine University, Malibu

Remarkable architecture and coastal vistas make Pepperdine University one of the most beautiful campuses you’ve ever seen.

Location: 24255 E Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu.
Founded in: 1937.
Spanning 830 acres across the Pacific Coast, Pepperdine University is one with a rich history. Besides the campus in Malibu,  four graduate branches throughout Southern California, and a center in Washington, DC, the institute also boasts campuses in Argentina, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and the United Kingdom.

Needless to say, it is the Malibu campus that truly steals the show. Its coastal scenery and  Mediterranean Revival architecture make it one of the most gorgeous campuses in the world. Offering views of Catalina Island, Santa Monica Bay, and the Palos Verdes Peninsula, Pepperdine is even believed to resemble a beach resort more than an institute of higher learning. 

campuses in Central California

University of California, Santa Cruz

Location: 1156 High Street, Santa Cruz.
Founded in: 1965.
It’s no surprise that another UC university is on the list of most beautiful college campuses. UC Santa Cruz is nestled among beautiful redwood forests overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Unlike other colleges on the list, this one was designed with more of a contemporary architectural style in mind. The stunning campus is also home to California’s most impressive modern architecture. 

There’s plenty to explore across the 6,000-acre campus. A must-see here is the Porters Caves—a series of three underground chambers that house several endemic species. The campus is close to several hiking and biking trails, sandy beaches, and other spots including the on-site Porter Caves.

University of the Pacific

Location: 3601 Pacific Avenue, Stockton.
Founded in: 1851.
The University of the Pacific—covered in towering pines and Gothic architecture—has an undeniably magical feel to it. Though its location has changed multiple times over the years, the university’s English Tudor Gothic style remains the same. The ornate Burns Tower graces the 175-acre campus as a testament to its architectural style.

As one of the nicest college campuses in California, the University of the Pacific features an abundance of greenery all over. Flowers and vegetation can be seen at every turn, including by the lovely rose gardens near the dorms.

University of California, Santa Barbara

With its very own beach and a natural preserve, UCSC is truly a coastal wonder.

Location: Santa Barbara, CA 93106.
Founded in: 1944 (as a UC campus).
Famous for its biking system, UCSB boasts a network of walking and bicycle paths across the premises, the lagoon, and the shore. It is also one of the few universities in the country that has its very own beach. The campus is also home to the UCSB Family Vacation Center, a summer camp that attracts more than 2,000 visitors every summer.

The Coal Oil Point nature preserve is another special feature of this university. This coastal getaway is ideal for various outdoor activities such as hiking and bird-watching. Its 2.4-mile loop trail takes around 45 minutes and is open throughout the year.

campuses in Northern California

Dominican University of California

Location: 50 Acacia Avenue, San Rafael.
Founded in: 1890.
The Dominican University of California creates a very woodsy atmosphere for its students. With large hills and shrubs in the background, the university’s entrance is adorned with trees and gardens. The mix of Mediterranean and Victorian-style architecture make this campus unforgettable. The greenery that lines the walkways complement the gorgeous detail found throughout the area. Read any list of prettiest college campuses and you’ll find this university on all of them.

Stanford University

Stanford University is lined with the tallest and lushest of palm trees.

Location: 450 Serra Mall, Stanford.
Founded in: 1885.
The prestigious Stanford University offers its students more than the best education in the world. The 8,000 acres of flatlands and rolling foothills were once a horse farm owned by Leland and Jane Stanford. And while the campus is far from a farm today, the rustic charm remains.

Palm trees lining the path welcome students to the majestic university. Red clay tiles adorn the rooftops of each building, and lush gardens cover the sprawling grounds. Stanford is not only among the most beautiful college campuses in California but also in the world.

University of California, Berkeley

UC Berkeley is where modern facilities meet Classical style architecture.

Location: 110 Sproul Hall, Berkeley.
Founded in: 1868.
Is it the stunning fall foliage that qualifies UC Berkeley as one of the most beautiful campuses in the state? Or the unbeatable views of the Golden Gate Bridge? Whichever it is, students of UC Berkeley are lucky in more than one way.  Not only do they study at one of the most coveted universities in the world, but they also wake up every day to the gorgeous views of San Francisco Bay. 

The beautiful grounds filled with trees and gardens are enhanced by Classical style architecture. If one of the most beautiful college campuses in the country doesn’t inspire you to study, we don’t know what will.

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